In a report published by The New York Times, has sparked the new debate, on how the Twitter accounts have been targeted by “state-sponsored actors” a three years ago.
The report has come a few weeks after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist at Washington Post who was disappeared from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul a two weeks ago.
The reports have claimed that “The online attackers were the part of a board effort dictated by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his close advisers to silence critics both inside Saudi Arabia and outside the countries.”
“More than Hundreds of people were appointed at a troll farm in Riyadh to smother the voices of the protesters like Khashoggi”.
“The Western intelligence official told Twitter that one of its employees, a Saudi citizen was asked by the Government of Saudi Arabia to spy on the accounts of those critics”. The employee – an engineer – had access to data of Twitter users, including phone numbers and IP addresses. The Saudi officials have convinced him to snoop on several accounts.
When Twitter came to know about this, Twitter fired that employee, despite finding no evidence of providing data of users to the Saudi government. The employee returned to the kingdom and now works for the government.
After the release, The Times reports that Twitter has warned the few dozens of users that their accounts “may have been targeted by the State-sponsored actors.”
“As a precaution, we warn you that your Twitter account is one of the small groups of accounts that can be targeted by state-sponsored actors,” Twitter said on the e-mail users affected. “We believe these actors (perhaps associated with the government) may try to get information such as email addresses, IP addresses and/or phone numbers.”
Twitter didn’t say at the time what was the main reason behind sending the warning email, leading some to question what linked the affected accounts.
According to the report, nearly to 20 users were affected by the state-sponsored actors, including the privacy and security researcher Runa Sandvik, a human rights activist Michael Carbone and Austrian Communications expert Marco Schreuder.
Several of the affected users also worked for the Tor project (A browser which allows activists and researchers to browse the web anonymously – often to bypass state-level censorship and surveillance.”
The report also claimed that “Facebook and Google also push out the similar alerts in the place in the event of suspected state-sponsored attacks or hacking of the accounts.”